Can You Get Money Back From Filing Taxes If You Had Zero Income?

by Kay Lee ; Updated June 30, 2018
Can You Get Money Back From Filing Taxes If You Had Zero Income?

If you have zero income, it is likely that you did not pay any taxes during the taxable year. It may seem counter-intuitive that you may still be eligible for a tax refund even if you did not earn any money. There are some limited circumstances when you may be able to get money back from filing your taxes even when you had no income.

When Do I Have to File Taxes?

The Internal Revenue Service requires that if you meet the filing requirements, you must file a return even if you do not owe any taxes. In general, there are three factors that determine whether you must file a tax return: the amount of income earned, your filing status and your age. The filing status makes a considerable difference, because if you are married and filing jointly and your spouse has income, you will likely need to file a tax return.

If These Situations Apply, You Should File Taxes

If you are not sure whether you meet the threshold for filing a tax return, the IRS has an online questionnaire that will assist you in making that determination. The IRS states that if any of the following situations apply to you, then you should file a return. If not, you do not need to file. If you do not have income, a return should be filed if you had any federal taxes withheld from any payments, if you sold your home, if you owe any taxes for any distributions or excess contributions to a qualified retirement plan or if you owe recapture tax.

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How Can I Get Money Back Without Income?

Believe it or not, the federal tax code has many provisions that allow you to get a tax refund, even if you do not have income. If you had any federal tax withheld from any payments or paid estimated taxes during the taxable year, you will get a refund of those payments if you did not have any income. The rest of the conditions that allow a refund when no income was earned are tax credits.

Each of these credits has its own requirements and some may require you to have earned income, so you may not be eligible if you had zero income. A few tax credits such as earned income credit, additional child tax credit, health coverage tax credit, refundable credit for prior year minimum tax, making work pay credit, first-time homebuyer credit, American opportunity credit, federal tax on fuels credit and the adoption credit are among some you may or may not be eligible to claim.

Is There a Special Form I Should Use to File My Taxes?

Even if you do not have income, you will still use the 1040 form series. Which Form 1040 you use will depend on the complexity of your taxes outside of the income section. The Form 1040-EZ is the simplest form to use and you may only use that if you only qualify for the making work pay credit. If you do not qualify for the Form 1040-EZ, you may want to consider using the Form 1040-A. This form is for slightly more complicated taxes and allows taxpayers to claim more credits than the Form 1040-EZ. If you do not meet the requirements for this form, you may use the full Form 1040, which accommodates all possible tax situations.

About the Author

Kay Lee began freelance writing for Answerbag and eHow in 2010. She is an attorney in Washington, DC, practicing since 2006. Lee specializes in employee benefits and executive compensation. She holds a Juris Doctor from the Columbus School of Law and a Master of Laws from Georgetown University Law Center.

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